It’s no secret that Google incorporates your web site’s load time into its rankings, Matt Cutts announced the change in April 2010. Optimizing your site to load quickly can be a time-consuming endeavor, there are many different areas to address including:
- Loss-less compression of images.
- Turning multiple UI images into sprites.
- Loading resources asynchronously.
- Leveraging server-side and browser caching.
- Enabling compression.
You can skip most of these headaches by using Google’s PageSpeed module for Apache. Installation is pretty easy if you have shell access, you can find instructions here. Better yet, if you have a VPS or dedicated hosting account, you can simply start a support ticket at your hosting company asking them to install mod_pagespeed, and send them the link to the instructions. They’ll usually install it for you without charging you anything.
Before doing this, test the speed that your page loads using this link, it will score you out of 100. You need a baseline to see how much the PageSpeed software improved your load time. For one of our Geo sites that is heavy with images, we were consistently scoring in the mid-high 50’s which is terrible.
Immediately after installing mod_pagespeed, with no other changes made, we were scoring in the mid 80’s and had cut our load time in half. On the results page of your speed test, Google makes other suggestions on how to improve load time, and by implementing some of the suggestions we consistently scored in the upper 80’s. There’s still some work to do as we’re shooting for a mid 90’s score, but in just a few minutes we were able to show a huge improvement thanks to Google’s PageSpeed software.
Another great advantage is that if you have a dozen sites on your server, all of them will be improved at once, you don’t have to repeat the optimization process over and over again for each site you own.
Ask your hosting company to install this module for you, you’ll be glad you did. Not only will you eventually see a slight improvement in your search engine rankings, you’ll also increase your conversion rate, get more page views per visitor, and generally make your visitor more happy and engaged. Everybody hates waiting for a site to load, if your site isn’t snappy the visitor is gone.